Former Manchester United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen has revealed that, in 2008, Sir Alex Ferguson and the club could do nothing but watch Gerard Pique rejoin former club Barcelona.
Unfortunately for United, this was a move that certainly backfired. They watched as Pique went on to become one of the game’s finest centre-backs. He has won eight La Liga titles, three Champions League trophies, and the World Cup and European Championship with Spain since he left Old Trafford, along with a number of further domestic trophies.
Speaking on the Michael Anthony Show podcast, Meulensteen, Ferguson’s assistant between 2007 and 2013, claimed the problem stemmed from Nemanja Vidic’s recent arrival, meaning that Pique’s route to the first-team was made all the more challenging. Furthermore, coaches had already expressed their concerns over the Spaniard’s suitability for the English top flight.
In the end, the centre-back rejoined Barca for just £5m, having managed a mere six starts in the Premier League – and United’s former Dutch coach explained why the club felt they could let Pique go, saying: “I understand that, but you also had Ferdinand, Vidic, Wes Brown and John O’Shea, that’s how the club looked.”
Of Pique’s departure, he further explained: “The reason why Pique was gone was that Gerard was a very strong minded person. He knew exactly what he wanted and he knew he was good enough to play first team football.
“However, was Gerard the ideal and right centre-back for a league like the Premier League? It has to be said, ‘not too sure.'”
He then added, confirming the ease with which Pique could return to Catalunya: “I think there was some sort of agreement in a clause with Barcelona and Manchester United and I’m 100 per cent sure that Gerard pushed for that guarantee.”
Meulensteen was also asked about a certain Jonny Evans and his departure from the club, and his former club’s difficulties replacing the formidable centre-back pairing of Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
He replied: “[Pique and Evans] were good at carrying the ball out from the back, moving the ball forward. That’s one of the reasons why they were fantastic.”
Evans, currently at Leicester, left United for West Brom in 2015, and has since blossomed into one of the Premier League’s most consistent defenders.